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What Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – and What Should Athletes Know?

Comments [14]

Dr. Steven Flanagan, BrainLine

Ask the Expert: What Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and What Should Athletes Know?
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More and more studies are being conducted about contact sports and progressive brain injury. What is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and what should we be doing to protect young athletes?

 

For years, we have known about a type of neurodegenerative disease, which may affect amateur and professional boxers, known as dementia pugilistica. Symptoms and signs of dementia pugilistica can develop progressively over a long period of time. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, may be similar and may be seen in more and more athletes who play contact sports like football or ice hockey. How much can the brain take, after all? It makes sense that a football player who is hit time and time again and who suffers multiple concussions would develop some sort of neurological trauma. The research that is being done on CTE is important, but it needs to be followed up with more research.

I think the increased awareness about traumatic brain injury is very helpful as is the awareness that a person doesn’t have to lose consciousness to sustain a concussion. This awareness will help everyone — from young athletes and coaches to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everyone, including healthcare professionals at all levels, needs to know that TBI is not necessarily a benign event and sometimes symptoms do not go away.

 

Click here to go to About Ask the Expert.

Steven Flanagan, MD Steven Flanagan, MD is professor and chairman of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and the medical director of the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University Langone Medical Center.


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Comments [14]

What isn't being addressed in CTE are the drugs being taken and the condition of the kidney. If one develops headaches, what is being done?  Drugs? Opioids, pain medications, NSAIDS, are all known to cause kidney damage.  Kidney damage is progressive and irreversible.  Guess what, so is CTE and Alzheimers.  It is my opinion that with increasing kidney damage, their is a corresponding decrease in the ability of the kidneys to filter out toxins and plaque.  This accumulates then on vessels, heart and fine brain cells, causing their death.  As the pain and subsequent symptoms develop such as changes in behavior, depression, then there is a corresponding reliance on drugs, causing more kidney damage.

Sep 24th, 2014 6:26pm

I'm a 27 year old male who recently had to drop out of a flight school due to a concussion in which I lost consciousness.  Less than 6 months before that I was elbowed directly in the temple playing basketball.  Before these recent occurrences I played basketball aggressively for years and also suffered shots to the head from older siblings in early life quite frequently.  I am having a hard time remembering things with my new studies.  I also have a hard time with my energy levels probably from depression.  I just watched the documentary   on CTE on PBS and now I am quite scared.  Since there is no way of truly knowing if someone has this until postmortem, how can I get help with this?

Jan 30th, 2014 8:13am

I played football from youth through college. It is frustrating to deteriorate mentally at such a rapid rate. I can't function in my current professional field. I appreciate the comment about creating connections through taxing the brain. I have lost my job and have lost my wife and two young kids. I'm afraid to be around them because I am so unstable. My behavior doesn't make sense to me after an emotional outburst. I can't sleep for more than a few hours at a time. My physical health is weakened because i am unable to care for myself because of depression. Can anyone help me?

Jan 12th, 2014 3:23am

I was a victim of domestic abuse and my ex husband was a golden gloves boxer when he was younger, it didn\'t take him long to figure out that if he hit me in the head no one could see the damage. This went on for years even after I divorced him until the stalking laws were passed here in Iowa. I always had migraines but they are becoming more often and intense and I am noticing short term and long term memory loss where I used to be very good like, spelling, putting things places, telling people things, and I am also dealing with anger issues with others which I thought I had come to terms with along time ago. All of this is very scary to me and very different from who I used to be. Could this be CTE? I am going to see my primary doctor on Friday and am going to ask her about it. Right now she knows nothing of this part of my past. I tried to keep it a secret from everyone but now I need to let it out to help myself.

Nov 13th, 2013 7:21am

I have a history of head injuries,now i have severe ringing in the ears,constant headache,severe neck pain,depression and anexioty disorder for many years, and can't find a Dr that even knows what it is.I found out what i had reading an article on ice hockey players and their sucide rates.

Mar 24th, 2013 9:52am

I\'ve had multiple concussions from early in life. In my late teens I started getting the head aches then later the mood swings. In my thirties I started getting horrible nightmares. The type that start right back up the moment you fall back asleep.If you can call it sleep. I found that if I smoked or ate cannabis the nightmares wouldn\'t occur. I also don\'t get migraines nearly as much anymore. The cannabis won\'t get rid of your migraine if you already have one, almost makes it worse. Since I already have serious short term memory loss, why not

Feb 20th, 2013 8:51pm

I had 5 head injuries before my 17th birth day. 2 where I was hit by a car, 2 were bmx/freestyle accidents (no helmet) 1 was slip and fall on the kitchen floor. All resulted in loss of consciousness except the kitchen. The 2 BMX accidents resulted in me waking up in the ambulance with no recollection of what just happened. I fear these early injuries may have caused damage that has progressed to my forty\'s now. Some people think Im bipolar because I go from happy to emotional in the snap of the fingers. I also drink alot. Any thoughts? Should I contact a University who does these studies? Who?

Jan 18th, 2013 2:52pm

Please Help! I'm a disabled combat veteran in need of answers. I am living with an 18 day, never ending migraine. I wake with it, I attempt to go to bed with it. The pain, cranial pressure, and fatigue will not fade. From a Run of Steroids, to Oxycontin, nothing brings relief. I am a survivor of a dozen serious concussions and two T.B.I's. (Med-Evac, Life Flighted With Loss Of Conciousness Twice. No Brain Bleeds.) My last serious T.B.I was 7 months ago. I seemed to recover at first. About six months after the car accident I began to have mild headaches at night. They now last around the clock and are medication & treatment resistant. I always feel sick to my stomach, irritable and feel like I have lost a third of my I.Q. I sleep but wake feeling even more fatigued! It's like waking up after having drank all night and remembering that I fell on my head drunk. I don't drink though. I take 2-3 long hot baths a day. I spend hours laying around on an ice pack. I feel like I am 90 years old. My recent CT was negative. I am waiting for an MRI. I guess it's been to long for post concussive syndrome. What could this be? Just all the added up traumas? How do I find relief? The pressure in my head is driving me crazy! Thanks. Sincerely, Desperate Veteran From California

Jul 6th, 2012 3:09pm

I have had 2 major head injuries and a near drowning from 2 horrific auto crashes. The 1st I was a sleeping passenger and the driver fell asleep at the wheel and went through a commercial wharf. I was knock unconscious from hitting the dash board, ( no seat Belts in those days), I went from sleeping to unconscious and work up briefly and had to kick the back glass to escape from under water. The second happened 7 years later my father and I were run over by a drunk drive while jump starting my dads truck ..My father was killed instantly and I was in ICU for 4 days in a coma with another major head injury. The Trauma doctor who was an X MASH Army doctor from the Korean War..told me after the second head injury that he had a theory..he said I should tax my brain as much as possible to create new connections to stave off dementia and alzheimer's in my later years.. His Hypothesis proved to be correct...I began teaching myself how to play different musical instruments and I taught my self how to compose write and arrange music..how to record multiple tracks edit and mix in a digital format..very complicated when you are playing all of the tracks..I recorded some 30 songs 17 are ready for mastering. My next endeavor will be to write a novel..Taxing ones brain has worked for me.. I was loosing ground a few years after the accident but as the years went by and I used the Doctor's Hypothesis I began to see my mental abilities return..It doesn't work however for social interaction..just processing logic..which now I am very good at.

Apr 1st, 2012 12:31pm

Thanks for helping bring awareness to these important brain injuries! I recently did some BRAINWAVE OPTIMIZATION (www.brainstatetech.com) and my anxiety went way down as did my anger outbursts etc.. Pat in Canada

Dec 3rd, 2011 8:31am

I am getting concerned. I have had 83 fights as a boxer and now 10+ years later...migrains, anger, depression, thoughts to hurt others when they cross me, got into heavy gambling and drinking, short term memory lacking... I am in communication for case studies at Boston College

Nov 10th, 2011 1:30am

i am a 61 year old male who had a CVA infarction of the right occipital lobe. I suffered loss of peripheral vision, night vision & other nuerological problems. please advise if CVA can be reversed by drugs or therapy.

Oct 22nd, 2011 5:34am

I'm a 34 year old female and firmly believe that I have CTE. Also a victim of domestic violence and two time car accident survivor. All injuries focused on the head still my MRIs show normal. In the last car accident I couldn't remember how to get home and walked around wetting my pants this lasted six months I was in my late twenties at this time. I sank into a deep depression and began acting out of character became out of touch with reality with day to day memory loss. Now I'm on medication Abilify and Paxil. This has helped greatly however still not who I used to be. Not sure if any other advice also hope this helps others. Audrey

Apr 18th, 2011 11:22am

Great information on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy!

Sep 16th, 2010 11:38pm


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